It’s another frightfully chilly day outside here in the Midwest. Yesterday’s low touched down near -8 degrees with wind chills down around -30. Today is only slightly warmer, with the current temperature as of this article’s writing at 2 degrees and a wind chill factor of -17 degrees.
That’s in Fahrenheit, for my international readers, not Celsius.
While I sit inside and cower from the cold, I ponder on a fun and interesting article topic for this week. My mind races through different ideas, rejecting most as quickly as they come into existence. Then a fun thought strikes my fancy and I jump in.
This week I’m feeling whimsical, so I’m going to write about five cards with strange and unique characteristics. To make it more fun, I’ll first describe the card to give readers a chance to guess it, akin to a trivia game of sorts. Think you got what it takes? Let’s find out!
What am I? #1
I am a rare from Arabian Nights but did not make the Reserved List. Thus, you’ll find me again in Revised, and Fourth Edition. However, those printings don’t contain the unique characteristic that can only be found on the original copy.
You see, my casting cost was the largest ever at the time of my printing. So big, in fact, that Wizards of the Coast couldn’t fit in in the standard circle allotted for the purpose of displaying cost. What was their solution? They used two numbers to depict my cost instead of the one that was required. It’s the first and only card to have this feature, and Wizards of the Coast since corrected their printing abilities to account for my special case.
Answer: Aladdin's Lamp
What am I? #2
I am a prerelease card that dates back to Judgement’s release over twenty years ago. There’s nothing spectacular about my card: I’m a 3/3 flying creature for 3WW with an extra ability to help protect your creatures. My first-ever reprint is about to launch with Dominaria Remastered, but you can find copies of me for just a couple of bucks.
Of course, the unique prerelease version of me is worth well over $20. Why is that? It’s because I am the only card ever to be printed in the Hebrew language! Granted, the translators didn’t exactly get my text box correctly, but it’s still a worthwhile endeavor.
Answer: Angel of Glory's Rise
What am I? #3
A staple from the early days of Magic, you’d often find me in young players’ burn decks. The ability to do any amount of damage to a creature or player was a very strong card back then, but I had an additional ability that made me even more powerful. If you paid the right amount of mana, you could do damage to not just one target, but any number of targets.
The problem was, the way my card was printed made it feel like you needed to have completed Algebra II in high school in order to calculate the appropriate mana cost for my card to do the amount of damage you intended to each target. As a result, my text box could be fairly daunting for what could have been a simple effect.
At one point, Wizards of the Coast tried printing me with an alternate mana cost in order to correct the situation. I’m sure this violated all sorts of technical rules around mana values, but the idea was creative and novel at the time. Nowadays you’ll never see my casting cost outside of a silver-bordered set. In fact, I’m the only non-silver bordered card to have not just an X in my casting cost, but also a Y.
Answer: Delayed Blast Fireball from Beatdown
What am I? #4
There are many ways to change basic land types from one to another in Magic. You can do it with enchantment auras like Phantasmal Terrain, enchantments like Celestial Dawn, creatures like Dream Thrush, instants like Jinx, and even lands like Unstable Frontier.
I am none of those, however. Instead, I’m an artifact. Yes, there are multiple artifacts that can change land types as I do, but I focus on swamps in particular. You’ll find me on the Reserved List, and therefore will only be able to buy copies of me from Alpha, Beta, or Unlimited. The first printing in Alpha was the most unique and special printing of all.
You see, my Alpha version was printed without its mana cost, baffling all new players simultaneously. It’s probably one of the most incorrectly played cards of its time.
Answer: Alpha Cyclopean Tomb
What am I? #5
I am another Reserved List card, this time a creature from The Dark. There’s nothing too spectacular about my abilities—I have trample, but not much else. To determine my power and toughness, you need to count up how many white creatures your opponent controls and how many are in their graveyard. At that point, you’ll pay an amount of life, and then have to keep track as that becomes my base power and toughness.
Ok, so maybe that already makes me fairly special. That’s not even the best part. You see, I’m so special, that in a way I am not special at all. Thanks to Magic errata, I currently have no creature type! I’m just a plain old creature, though as printed my creature type was technically the same as my name.
Some Quick Finance Discussion On These Cards
Each of the above cards has some unique characteristics that (I think) make them interesting. It’s unlikely Wizards reprints any of them in their unique form, and two of the five cards will never be reprinted for tournament play thanks to the Reserved List. As such, they may all be worth picking up as long-term investments.
I wouldn’t go super deep on Beatdown copies of Delayed Blast Fireball, mind you. It’s a common from a box set. While inventory wouldn’t be particularly deep I think you’ll have trouble finding many people out there who appreciate its novel casting cost. That said, maybe next time you’re placing an order, it’s worth grabbing a copy of this to show off to your friends.
Nameless Race and Arabian Nights' Aladdin's Lamp have not been immune to the ongoing selloff taking place throughout the collectible landscape. Their prices have come down significantly from their highs earlier this year. I wouldn’t catch a falling knife if I could avoid it, but the opportunity could arise to pick up these novelties at a good price if you’re patient.
If nothing else, their presence in the non-existent Magic: the Gathering Record Book makes them interesting pieces of history, if nothing else. I already have Delayed Blast Fireball, Aladdin's Lamp, and Angel of Glory's Rise, and I intend to pick up a Nameless Race next time I get some store credit. As for Alpha Cyclopean Tomb—I owned one of them years ago, but it’s a bit steep for my liking nowadays. I’ll need to see its price retreat much further before I am tempted to pick up the card again.
Wrapping It Up
I hope you enjoyed this foray into Magic’s more niche and bizarre past. How did you do playing my trivia game? Were you able to guess them all before seeing the answers? Was one particularly tricky? I suspect that many newer players will have a difficult time guessing any of these, whereas players who have been around since the 1990s (as I have) will have a better chance at answering these correctly.
Either way, I hope it gave you a bit of entertainment while we navigate the polar vortex outside. At least in the Midwest, it’ll be the first White Christmas / White Chanukah that I can remember in a long time. I guess that counts for something.